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James Victore’s “Celebrate Columbus” poster.

Except these students were asked to carry those labels around for everyone but themselves to see and judge. The project was part of Sticks + Stones, a multi-university

By creating an atmosphere where students discuss hottopic issues such as race and learn firsthand from a diverse group of peers, Sticks + Stones aims to produce knowledge-

initiative that gathered students from different parts of

able and responsible designers who can see when their

the world and challenged them to reconsider their percep-

own personal biases leak into their work (“Navigating

tions about the “other” while at the same time educating

Cross-Cultures”).

them about the importance of meaning in visual language.

Buck-Coleman also pointed to the Power in You 2005

The course, which won the Core 77 Design Education

campaign in her essay “In Pursuit of Undermining

Initiative Award, dissected the responsibilities of the

Stereotypes.” The program, created by W Communications

designer in today’s changing global climate (Core 77).

for Utah’s first lady Mary Kaye Huntsman, featured 175

Audra Buck-Coleman, assistant professor at the University of Maryland, College Park, and one of the project’s main investigators, said the goal of the project is to correct

billboards with single-word labels such as “Ghetto,” “Failure,” “Slacker” (Stewart). The billboards were meant to make the residents uncom-

visual misconceptions and unintended use of stereotypes

fortable yet curious. The campaign also featured a series

and produce designers with strong ethical values.

of back-to-back 15-second spots that showed students with

Sticks + Stones started in 2005 as a collaborative project

labels stuck on their foreheads going about their daily

between four U.S. universities and brought together

campus activities. After four weeks, Kaye Huntsman

75 students, each of whom carried their own set of values

publicly removed one of the labels in an effort to get others

regarding race, sexual orientation and religion. The

involved. And the final 15-second spot showed students

curriculum was based on the stereotypes each student

shedding their labels as well (Workhappens.blogspot.com).

held about his or her fellow classmates, with the ultimate goal of broadening each student’s view (“Navigating Cross-Cultures”). Designers have been using visual language as a means to communicate both positive and negative messages.

“I pulled junior high and high school kids together and asked them what types of labels they face. They suggested putting these words out there to say, ‘Let’s get rid of them,’ ” Huntsman said in an interview with the Salt Lake Tribune. While generating buzz, the campaign also alarmed

Design luminaries such as James Victore, Seymour Chwast

caregivers who treat those with substance abuse issues.

and Tibor Kalman have addressed racism, tolerance and

Other residents complained that the ads were directed

ethics in their work. The Nazi party, however, used design as

at them. For instance, one billboard with the single word

means to oppress and divide its citizens during World War II. Sticks + Stones educators believe it is important that students realize the power of design (Desert News, “Weber State Students”).

“Ghetto” was located near a trailer park and was removed following complaints (Stewart). While creating buzz can lead to awareness, it’s something that also needs to be done with care.

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Think Before You Type by Nancy Palm  

Think Before You Type by Nancy Palm. 2012 Thesis

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